BOTTLED WATER VOLUME BUBBLES UP

NEW YORK -- Bottled water sales increased by almost 7% last year, marking the 20th consecutive year that the commodity has shown sales growth, according to a survey conducted by Beverage Marketing Corp. here.The category's sales last year were fueled by concerns over municipal water supplies and helped by the growth of smaller-size bottles, said the beverage marketing consulting firm in its report.Americans

NEW YORK -- Bottled water sales increased by almost 7% last year, marking the 20th consecutive year that the commodity has shown sales growth, according to a survey conducted by Beverage Marketing Corp. here.

The category's sales last year were fueled by concerns over municipal water supplies and helped by the growth of smaller-size bottles, said the beverage marketing consulting firm in its report.

Americans consumed a record 2.4 billion gallons of bottled water last year, or almost 77 pints for every person in the country, an increase of 6.9% over the previous year. Based upon current growth trends, the survey projects a continuing rise in bottled water sales, with consumption almost doubling to 4.3 billion gallons by the year 2003.

By comparison, soft drinks posted a 2.6% sales increase during the same period. However, soft drinks represent half of all packaged ready-to-drink beverages sold in the United States, while bottled water represents 10%. Beer sales declined 0.5% during the same period, the report said.

The study found that the bottled water industry is comprised largely of regional brands. Expansion is also tied to regional trends, according to the consulting firm. "The fastest growing area for bottled water is the Southwest. Much of the growth has to do with the water quality in that region," Hellen Berry, vice president of marketing at Beverage Marketing, told SN.

Berry added that the Southwest is currently the nation's third-largest water market behind the Pacific Region and the Northeast.

Bottled water had wholesale sales of $2.89 billion in 1993, an increase of 6.3%, and retail water sales grew by 7.9%. Sales weren't broken down by retail channel.